Tandem: A Tale of Shadows is a simple yet engaging puzzle game set in Victorian London, where your shadow will guide your path.
The premise for Tandem: A Tale of Shadows by Monochrome Paris revolves around Emma, a 10 year old girl, who is investigating the mysterious disappearance of a famous illusionist’s son: Thomas Kaine. On a rainy night, a carriage speeds past a lantern-lit Emma, a stuffed bear falling out of the window. The animate stuffed bear teams up with Emma to investigate Kaine’s disappearance in the infamous Kaine mansion.
The story is set in Victorian London, the music is charming music box style. Atmospheric and easy to listen to as you navigate the maps and solve puzzles. There are two distinct gameplay modes you have in Tandem, Emma is top-down view, allowing her to use elements and objects in the environment to cast shadows for the teddy bear Fenton, who navigates on a different plane/angle separate from Emma. Emma casts shadows for Fenton to be able to reach elements like buttons, in order to open doors or unlock keys for Emma. Fenton’s sections are side-scrolling platform levels, while the top-down puzzle solving is handled by Emma. The end goal is to collect a sort of crystal gem in order to progress to the next stage.
The character models are a little stiff and odd in cutscenes, but this might be because they aren’t really designed to be shown up close and out of context. This makes the times that the game moves out of the limited and far away top-down or platformer side-to-side view a bit jarring. In context, however, the models look great and serve the game and atmosphere well during gameplay. The backgrounds and environments are very visually interesting and have a whimsical yet dark Tim Burton-esque charm. Combining some Victorian looking wrought iron, mixed in with background assets that add a touch of whimsy, like a giant toad, or goldfish swimming around nearby as you solve puzzles. Fenton’s portions are side scrolling platformer style levels, with a gritty black-and-white color palette.
Default movement controls were a little counter-intuitive- Q, A, S, Z for movement rather than the standard WASD. Thankfully you can set the movement keys to whatever you prefer. The puzzle elements are fairly intuitive. Without giving an explicit tutorial, they manage to communicate the game mechanics effectively through gameplay.There is little to no text or vocal prompting in Tandem: A Tale of Shadows which makes it easy to get lost in the game. Each level increases in difficulty, and introduces new mechanisms with each new stage, as you’d expect from a puzzle game. Each new element to the puzzles are introduced in such a way that makes this a perfect game for casual gamers, and puzzle game enthusiasts alike.
The dark, mysterious Victorian style adds a distinct flare and immersion without being too distracting. Fenton’s platforming sections also change up the visual flair with the black-and-white motif, which brings you into the world even more. While the shadow casting mechanic is unique, Tandem is simple enough that even people who don’t normally enjoy puzzle games, or puzzle platformers can pick this up and enjoy it. Combined with the slow, music box style music it’s easy to get immersed in this dark and dreary world.
The game thrives on its simple premise and anyone could find its gameplay and immersive visuals enjoyable. If you have never, or don’t regularly play puzzle games, Tandem: A Tale of Shadows would be a very good introductory game for those interested in the genre. Tandem: A Tale of Two Shadows is scheduled to release Autumn 2021.